PHOTO ESSAY: Diwali 2013, The Festival Of Lights

1 11 2013

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In 2013, Diwali, the festival of lights, will be celebrated on Nov. 3 by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs. The word Diwali comes from the Sanskrit deepavali, which means a row of lights. For many Hindus, Diwali is also New Year’s Eve.

While Diwali is popularly known as the “festival of lights”, the most significant spiritual meaning is “the awareness of the inner light”. Central to Hindu philosophy is the assertion that there is something beyond the physical body and mind which is pure, infinite, and eternal, called the Atman. The celebration of Diwali as the “victory of good over evil”, refers to the light of higher knowledge dispelling all ignorance, the ignorance that masks one’s true nature, not as the body, but as the unchanging, infinite, immanent and transcendent reality. With this awakening comes compassion and the awareness of the oneness of all things (higher knowledge). This brings anand (joy or peace). Just as we celebrate the birth of our physical being, Diwali is the celebration of this Inner Light.

The “row of lights” for which the festival is named are lit on the new-moon night to welcome Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. But in Bengal, it is the goddess Kali who is so honored, and in North India the festival also celebrates the return of Gods and Godesses Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, and Hanuman to the city of Ayodhya, where Rama’s rule of righteousness was inaugurated. Diwali is celebrated with a variety of rituals, which depend in large part on one’s location, but they center on the lighting of candles, electric lights and fireworks. Throughout the five-day festival, small earthenware lamps filled with oil are lighted and placed in rows along the tops of temples and houses and set adrift on rivers and streams.

The Diwali season is also significant to Sikhs. During the festival time in 1620, the sixth Guru, Hargobind Singh, gained the release of 52 Hindu princes who had been falsely imprisoned in Gwallior Fort by the rulers of the area, the Mughals. The Golden Temple of Amritsar was lit with many lights to welcome the release of Guru Hargobind; Sikhs have continued the tradition.

Jains also celebrate Diwali, as a celebration of the establishment of the dharma by Lord Mahavira. The festival’s lights symbolizes the light of holy knowledge that was extinguished with Mahavira’s passing.

In the name of the Central-European Religious Freedom Institute, I wish to all Hindu, Sikh and Jain believers a very happy Diwali.

Jura Nanuk,
Founder & President

Indians buy lanterns from roadside stalls ahead of Hindu festival of lights Diwali, in Mumbai, India, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013. Lanterns are a popular traditional decoration as people decorate their homes during the Diwali festival. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Indians buy lanterns from roadside stalls ahead of Hindu festival of lights Diwali, in Mumbai, India, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013. Lanterns are a popular traditional decoration as people decorate their homes during the Diwali festival. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

A Sri Lankan Hindu priest blesses devotees during Diwali, or the Festival of Lights at a Hindu temple in Colombo on November 2, 2013. The Hindu Festival of Lights, Diwali marks the homecoming of the God Lord Ram after vanquishing the demon king Ravana and symbolises taking people from darkness to light in the victory of good over evil. Photo by IIshara S.KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Images.

A Sri Lankan Hindu priest blesses devotees during Diwali, or the Festival of Lights at a Hindu temple in Colombo on November 2, 2013. The Hindu Festival of Lights, Diwali marks the homecoming of the God Lord Ram after vanquishing the demon king Ravana and symbolises taking people from darkness to light in the victory of good over evil. Photo by IIshara S.KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Images.

In this Saturday, Nov.2, 2013 photograph, Indian widows light crackers as they celebrate Diwali or the festival of lights at an Ashram in Vrindavan, India. In India, for all of its recent modernization and openness to foreign cultures, being a widow remains one of the worst stigmas a woman can endure, and women are far from equal here. When her husband dies, the widow often becomes a pariah, excluded from family gatherings for fear the mere fall of her shadow will bring bad luck and tragedy.(AP Photo/ Rajesh Kumar Singh)

In this Saturday, Nov.2, 2013 photograph, Indian widows light crackers as they celebrate Diwali or the festival of lights at an Ashram in Vrindavan, India. In India, for all of its recent modernization and openness to foreign cultures, being a widow remains one of the worst stigmas a woman can endure, and women are far from equal here. When her husband dies, the widow often becomes a pariah, excluded from family gatherings for fear the mere fall of her shadow will bring bad luck and tragedy.(AP Photo/ Rajesh Kumar Singh)

Indian Sikh devotees lights candles at the illuminated Sikhism's holiest shrine Golden Temple in Amritsar on November 3, 2013, on the ocassion of Bandi Chhor Divas or Diwali. Sikhs celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas or Diwali to mark the return of the Sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind Ji, who was freed from imprisonment and also managed to release 52 political prisoners at the same time from Gwalior fort by Mughal Emperor Jahangir in 1619. Photo by NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images.

Indian Sikh devotees lights candles at the illuminated Sikhism’s holiest shrine Golden Temple in Amritsar on November 3, 2013, on the ocassion of Bandi Chhor Divas or Diwali. Sikhs celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas or Diwali to mark the return of the Sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind Ji, who was freed from imprisonment and also managed to release 52 political prisoners at the same time from Gwalior fort by Mughal Emperor Jahangir in 1619. Photo by NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images.

Indian Muslim shop owner, Nasurullah Abdul Majid, 70, arranges silk garlands ahead of Diwali festivities at their shop in Ahmedabad on October 21, 2013. Diwali, which falls on November 3, marks the victory of good over evil. Photo by SAM PANTHAKY/AFP/Getty Images.

Indian Muslim shop owner, Nasurullah Abdul Majid, 70, arranges silk garlands ahead of Diwali festivities at their shop in Ahmedabad on October 21, 2013. Diwali, which falls on November 3, marks the victory of good over evil. Photo by SAM PANTHAKY/AFP/Getty Images.

Indians buy lanterns from roadside stalls ahead of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, in Mumbai, India, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013. Hindus light up their homes and pray to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, during the festival which will be celebrated on Nov. 3. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Indians buy lanterns from roadside stalls ahead of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, in Mumbai, India, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013. Hindus light up their homes and pray to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, during the festival which will be celebrated on Nov. 3. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Indian women browse cookies ahead of the upcoming Diwali festival celebrations in the Brickfields area, also known as Little India, in Kuala Lumpur on October 21, 2013. Hindus throughout the world will celebrate Diwali on November 2. AFP PHOTO / MOHD RASFAN (Photo credit should read MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Indian women browse cookies ahead of the upcoming Diwali festival celebrations in the Brickfields area, also known as Little India, in Kuala Lumpur on October 21, 2013. Hindus throughout the world will celebrate Diwali on November 2. Photo by MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images.

An Indian craftsman paints clay 'diyas' (earthen lamps) ahead of the Hindu festival of Diwali in Amritsar on October 29, 2013. Diwali, celebrated this year on November 3 marks the victory of good over evil and commemorates the time when Hindu God Lord Rama achieved victory over Ravana and returned to his Kingdom Ayodhya after 14 years of exile. AFP PHOTO/NARINDER NANU (Photo credit should read NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images)

An Indian craftsman paints clay ‘diyas’ (earthen lamps) ahead of the Hindu festival of Diwali in Amritsar on October 29, 2013. Diwali, celebrated this year on November 3 marks the victory of good over evil and commemorates the time when Hindu God Lord Rama achieved victory over Ravana and returned to his Kingdom Ayodhya after 14 years of exile. Photo by NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images.

An Indian potter makes earthen lamps ahead of the Diwali festival in Ahmadabad, India, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013. Diwali, the festival of lights will be celebrated on Nov. 3. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)

An Indian potter makes earthen lamps ahead of the Diwali festival in Ahmadabad, India, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013. Diwali, the festival of lights will be celebrated on Nov. 3. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)

A Malaysian ethnic Indian woman dries her hand after getting it painted with henna for the upcoming Diwali, or the Hindu festival of lights in Klang, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013. The festival falls on Saturday. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)

A Malaysian ethnic Indian woman dries her hand after getting it painted with henna for the upcoming Diwali, or the Hindu festival of lights in Klang, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013. The festival falls on Saturday. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)

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Ganesh Chaturthi 2013: Hindus celebrate birthday of Lord Ganesha

10 09 2013

Ganesh Chaturthi, also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi, is the Hindu festival of Lord Ganesh. It is a 10-day festival marking the birthday of Ganesh, who is widely worshipped for auspicious beginnings. Ganesh is the patron of arts and sciences and the deity of intellect and wisdom, also known as Remover of Obstacles.

Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated all over India and among the Hindu Indian diaspora, and it is observed in an especially grand manner in Maharashtra. Prior to the festival, skilled artisans prepare clay models of Lord Ganesha. Houses are cleaned as devotees prepare to bring the Lord Ganesh into their homes and install the deity. Special prayers, devotional chanting and singing are performed for all 10 days. Delicious sweets are prepared and distributed on this joyous occasion. On the 11th day, the Ganesh statue is taken through the streets in a procession accompanied with dancing, singing and fanfare to be immersed in a river or the sea.

This festival is observed in the Hindu calendar month of Bhaadrapada, and the date usually falls between Aug. 20 and Sept. 15. In 2013, Ganesh Chaturthi begins on September 9.

Devotees carry an idol of Hindu elephant god Ganesh, the deity of prosperity, into the water from Girgaum Chowpatty beach before immersing it in the waters of the Arabian Sea on the last day of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival in Mumbai, on September 11, 2011. Idols are taken through the streets in a procession accompanied by dancing and singing, to be immersed in a river or the sea symbolizing a ritual send-off of his journey towards his abode in "Kailash", while taking away with him the misfortunes of all mankind. (Reuters/Vivek Prakash)

Devotees carry an idol of Hindu elephant god Ganesh, the deity of prosperity, into the water from Girgaum Chowpatty beach before immersing it in the waters of the Arabian Sea on the last day of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival in Mumbai, on September 11, 2011. Idols are taken through the streets in a procession accompanied by dancing and singing, to be immersed in a river or the sea symbolizing a ritual send-off of his journey towards his abode in “Kailash”, while taking away with him the misfortunes of all mankind. (Reuters/Vivek Prakash)

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A man carries an idol of Hindu elephant headed god Ganesha to immerse it in the Arabian Sea on the fifth day of the ten day long Ganesh Chaturthi festival in Mumbai, on September 5, 2011. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)

Devotees carry an idol of the Hindu elephant god Ganesh for immersion into the Arabian Sea on the last day of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival in Mumbai, September 29, 2012. Ganesh idols are taken through the streets in a procession accompanied by dancing and singing and later immersed in a river or the sea symbolising a ritual seeing-off of his journey towards his abode, taking away with him the misfortunes of all mankind. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

Devotees carry an idol of the Hindu elephant god Ganesh for immersion into the Arabian Sea on the last day of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival in Mumbai, September 29, 2012. Ganesh idols are taken through the streets in a procession accompanied by dancing and singing and later immersed in a river or the sea symbolising a ritual seeing-off of his journey towards his abode, taking away with him the misfortunes of all mankind. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

Indian Hindu devotees swim with an idol of Lord Ganesha in an artificial pond, dug for the ongoing Ganesh Chathurthi festival to help control pollution and waste, along the banks of the Sabarmati river in Ahmedabad. Hindu devotees bring home idols of Lord Ganesha during the ‘Ganesh Chaturthi’ in order to invoke his blessings for wisdom and prosperity, during the eleven day long festival which culminates with the immersion of the idols. (Sam PANTHAKY/AFP/Getty Images)

Indian Hindu devotees swim with an idol of Lord Ganesha in an artificial pond, dug for the ongoing Ganesh Chathurthi festival to help control pollution and waste, along the banks of the Sabarmati river in Ahmedabad. Hindu devotees bring home idols of Lord Ganesha during the ‘Ganesh Chaturthi’ in order to invoke his blessings for wisdom and prosperity, during the eleven day long festival which culminates with the immersion of the idols. (Sam PANTHAKY/AFP/Getty Images)





Tulsi Gabbard, first Hindu In US Congress, uses Bhagavad Gita at swearing-in ceremony

6 01 2013
Representative Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu in US Congress, participates in a ceremonial swearing-in administered by Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner.

Representative Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu in US Congress, participates in a ceremonial swearing-in administered by Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner.

By Jaweed Kaleem, national religion reporter for Huffington Post

The Bible and Torah have long been used at swearing-in ceremonies for members of Congress and have been joined by the Quran in more recent years, but this week marked the first time the Bhagavad Gita was used.

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu to join either chamber of Congress, used the sacred text from her faith in a ceremonial swearing-in conducted by Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio).

“I chose to take the oath of office with my personal copy of the Bhagavad-Gita because its teachings have inspired me to strive to be a servant-leader, dedicating my life in the service of others and to my country,” said Gabbard, who served in the Iraq War, after the swearing-in. “My Gita has been a tremendous source of inner peace and strength through many tough challenges in life, including being in the midst of death and turmoil while serving our country in the Middle East.”

While no religious ceremony is legally required for those elected to Congress and the Senate, many choose to take oaths of office over Christian and Jewish texts, and Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, a Muslim, took his oath over a Quran. But Gabbard’s choice of text is symbolic of growing religious diversity of Congress.

A new Pew forum analysis of faiths of those in Congress released Thursday shows that while Congress is mainly Protestant and doesn’t exactly mirror the nation’s religious diversity, recent elections have brought it to gradually increase its share of non-Protestant members. The analysis found that Congress trails in its share of the one in five Americans who claim no religion.

Gabbard, 31, was born in American Samoa, and raised by a Catholic father and a Hindu mother. She moved to Hawaii when she was 2 and joined the Hawaii Legislature in 2002 at age 21. She served in the Hawaii National Guard the next year and, in 2004, went to Baghdad to be a medical operations specialist. In 2008, she was deployed to Kuwait to work with the nation’s counterterrorism trainees.

Gabbard chose to embrace the Hindu faith after her mother started practicing it when Gabbard was a teen. The congresswoman-elect, whose first name refers to a tree that’s sacred to Hindus, follows the Vaishnava branch of Hinduism, which focuses on the Supreme Lord Vishnu and his 10 main incarnations.

Largely made up of Indian-Americans, the Hindu population in the United States is between 600,000 and 2.3 million. Unlike most Hindus, Gabbard is not of Indian heritage. Her father is Samoan and her mother is a convert to Hinduism.

During her swearing-in using the same Gita Gabbard kept while in Iraq, she reflected on her diverse upbringing and the role it played in her faith.

“I was raised in a multiracial, multicultural, multi-faith family. My mother is Hindu; my father is a Catholic lector in his church who also practices mantra meditation. I began to grapple with questions of spirituality as a teenager,” Gabbard said. “Over time, I came to believe that, at its essence, religion gives us a deeper purpose in life than just living for ourselves. Since I was a teenager, I embraced this spiritual journey through the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita.”

“In so doing, have been blessed with the motivation and strength to dedicate my life in service others in a variety of ways,” she said.

Gabbard takes the seat of Sen. Mazie Hirono, a former Hawaii representative who is the first Buddhist in the Senate.





Ganesh Chaturthi – birthday of Hindu Lord Ganesha

20 09 2012

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One of the biggest religious holidays in Hinduism, the great Ganesha festival, also known as ‘Ganesh Chaturthi’ or ‘Vinayak Chaturthi’, is celebrated by Hindus as the birthday of Lord Ganesha. It is observed during the Hindu month of Bhadra (mid-August – mid-September). The grandest and most elaborate Ganesh Chaturthi festival is celebrated in the western India state of Maharashtra, lasts for 10 days.

Elephant-head deity called Ganesha, also known as Ganapaty, is one of the best known and most worshiped deities in Hinduism. He is son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, the Divine Mother. Although generally known as Lord of beginnings and Remover of Obstacles, he is also worshiped as the god of education, knowledge, wisdom and wealth. Ganesha is usually shown having only one tusk, as the legend said he used his tusk to write famous Indian epic Mahbaharata.

May the blessings of Sri Ganesha be upon you all! May He remove all the obstacles that stand in your spiritual path! May He bestow on you all material prosperity as well as liberation!

In the name of Central-European Religious Freedom Institute, I wish you very happy Ganesh Chaturthi.

Jura Nanuk, President & Founder

 





Hungarian Hare Krishna community setting a good example

15 12 2011

The Hungarian Society for Krishna Consciousness is the main representative of the Hindu world religion in Hungary. The Krishna devotees are known for their diligent religious practices, dedicated distribution of eternal spiritual wisdom and pure, exemplary lifestyles. Their efforts and achievements in assisting underprivileged people, as well as in fighting environmental problems and promoting sustainability, are also well known and valued worldwide.

Recent Hungarian law on churches threatened their religious status and put a question mark over the future of their agricultural land in Hungary, known as Krishna-valley. Hungarian law on arable land says only the State, churches and individuals have right to own arable land. If Krishna community would lose its religious status due to new draconian law on churches, their 270-hectare farm – a home to 300 monks and sacred cows – might become State property overnight.

On the 13th of December, they held a peaceful demonstration with their homeless-to-be cows, monks and families in front of the Hungarian Parliament. Also, to make their case stronger, they issued a petition, which was signed by tens of thousand people from all over the world in a matter of days.

Indian government officials, businessmen, as well as international Hindu organizations in Europe, the United States and the United Kingdom have expressed their concern about the issue at the Hungarian Embassies in their respective countries, as well as by sending letters directly to Prime Minister Viktor Orban:

“We are deeply disappointed that Hungary, whose ardent desire for true democracy the whole world could witness and admire over twenty years ago, now is making the mistake of not protecting its citizens` equality  — and discriminates against internationally respected religious organizations.” – Hindu Forum of Europe

“The global efforts of International Society for Krishna Consciousness we represented as faith based best practices, at a recent Hindu American Seva (service) conference at the White House. Their efforts and achievements in fighting environmental problems and promoting sustainability are also well-known and valued worldwide. Their Krishna-Valley farm has brought hundreds of thousands of tourists and more international recognition for Hungary.“ - Hindu American Seva Charities

“On behalf of Hindu Forum of Britain we are requesting that you, Mr. Prime Minister, and the Parliament of Hungary rectify this situation as soon as possible. We are especially urging the Hungarian Parliament to re-establish the church status of all Hindu Groups in Hungary. Including the Society for Krishna Consciousness, which is a part of the 5000 year old Hindu Faith and a representative of the Gaudia Vaishnava Tradition.” - Hindu Forum of Britain

“On behalf of the Hindu community, we are respectfully requesting that this situation is rectified as soon as possible by repealing the legislation or amending its discriminatory provisions. We are fully convinced that the Hungarian Society for Krishna Consciousness is worthy of all your support, as it is a tremendous asset not only to the Hungarian people, but also to the international community.” - Hindu American Foundation

 

With their non-confrontational, peace loving ways, Hungarian Krishna community is setting a good example in protecting religious freedom in Hungary.

Congratulations!

Jura Nanuk,
Central-European Religious Freedom Institute 

Photo by Vajda József/Nepszava




Vatican council sends Deepavali greetings to Hindus

29 11 2011

Vatican City - The Vatican Council for Interreligious Dialogue has offered its “cordial greetings” to Hindus celebrating the feast of Deepavali. The council proposed religious freedom as the answer to religiously motivated conflicts.

“May God, the source of all light, illumine your hearts, homes and communities for a life of peace and prosperity,” said the Oct. 20 message, signed by the council president Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran and the council secretary Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata.

The three-day Deepavali celebrations begin this year on Oct. 26. They mark the beginning of a new year and are a time for Hindus to take part in family reconciliation and adoration of the divine.

The Council for Inter-religious Dialogue traditionally shares a reflection on the occasion. This year it chose the subject of religious freedom because it is at center stage in many places. The subject calls attention to “those members of our human family exposed to bias, prejudice, hate propaganda, discrimination and persecution on the basis of religious affiliation.”

Religious freedom is a fundamental human right, they said.

“When it is jeopardized or denied, all other human rights are endangered. Religious freedom necessarily includes immunity from coercion by any individual, group, community or institution,” they explained.

The message comes after several years of tensions and anti-Christian violence in some parts of India. Hindu radicals have participated in deadly attacks that have driven Christians out of their homes and destroyed their churches.

The Vatican council said that the human freedom to profess, practice and propagate religion or belief can take place in public or private, alone or in a community.

The right to religious freedom also involves a “serious obligation” from civil authorities, individuals and groups to respect the freedom of others. It also includes the freedom to change one’s own religion.

The council’s letter observed that respect for religious freedom allows believers to be “more enthusiastic” about cooperating with their fellow citizens to build “a just and human social order.” Its denial stifles and frustrates “authentic and lasting peace.”

The council noted areas like the defense of life and the dignity of the family, the education of children, honesty in daily life and the preservation of natural resources as areas in which believers can make a specific contribution to the common good.

“Let us strive, then, to join hands in promoting religious freedom as our shared responsibility, by asking the leaders of nations never to disregard the religious dimension of the human person,” the council said.

“We cordially wish you a joyful celebration of Deepavali.”

Source: Catholic News Agency





Ganesh Chaturthi – birthday of Hindu Lord Ganesha

31 08 2011


One of the biggest religious holidays in Hinduism, the great Ganesha festival, also known as ‘Ganesh Chaturthi’ or ‘Vinayak Chaturthi’, is celebrated by Hindus as the birthday of Lord Ganesha. It is observed during the Hindu month of Bhadra (mid-August – mid-September). The grandest and most elaborate Ganesh Chaturthi festival is celebrated in the western India state of Maharashtra, lasts for 10 days.

Elephant-head deity called Ganesha, also known as Ganapaty, is one of the best known and most worshiped deities in Hinduism. He is son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, the Divine Mother. Although generally known as Lord of beginnings and Remover of Obstacles, he is also worshiped as the god of education, knowledge, wisdom and wealth. Ganesha is usually shown having only one tusk, as the legend said he used his tusk to write famous Indian epic Mahbaharata.

May the blessings of Sri Ganesha be upon you all! May He remove all the obstacles that stand in your spiritual path! May He bestow on you all material prosperity as well as liberation!

In the name of Central-European Religious Freedom Institute, I wish you very happy Ganesh Chaturthi.

Jura Nanuk,
President of the Committee for Inter-Religious Cooperation





Hungarian Parliament Resurrects Soviet Past with Midnight Adoption of Europe’s Most Restrictive Religion Law

29 07 2011

While Communism officially ended in Hungary over 20 years ago, it appears the dictatorial mindset has not yet fully abated

 

On July 12, after midnight, the Hungarian parliament procured for the country the title of Worst Religion Law in Europe when it adopted its new “Law on the Right toFreedom of Conscience and Religion, and on Churches, Religions and Religious Communities”.

“I am both saddened and disappointed by the adoption of such a draconian law,” commented THE INSTITUTE on Religion and Public Policy’s Founder and Chairman, Joseph K. Grieboski. “I have known and worked closely with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, most recently on the new constitution, and expected much more from him. The law is a danger to all Hungarian society and a terrible indication of the state of democracy in the country.”

As the Pastor of an evangelical Church noted on passage of the bill: “This is the greatest discrimination against evangelical Christians since the fall of Communism. This is just the first step against real, active, Bible-believing Christian groups. During Communism we were oppressed and persecuted, but we didn’t expect the same from a so-called ‘Christian’ government.”

Over one hundred currently registered religious organizations will be retroactively stripped of their status as religious communities and “de-registered” as religious organizations, losing key rights and privileges provided to registered Churches. Only fourteen religious organizations will retain their registration status, while all others in the country will be forced to reregister.

Religious organizations that have been “de-registered” may not use the name “Church” and will also lose their status as a religious organization if they are not “re-registered” through burdensome proceedings. In addition, “re-registration” can only occur if a minority religious community meets onerous duration levels designed to suppress minority religious freedom in complete contravention of European Human Rights Court’s and OSCE’s standards.

The amendments added to the legislation further restrict the rights of religious communities in Hungary by imposing illegal national security restrictions. Such amendments violate fundamental international human rights law and international human rights instruments that Hungary has signed and ratified. Under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), national security does not form a proper basis to impose restrictions on religious freedom. National Security is consistently excluded from the list of permissible grounds for restricting freedom of religion in all major international interests.

According to the most surprising amendment, the competent authority to recognize a religious organization is now the parliament, with a two-third vote, rather than the courts or a ministry. A religious organization seeking recognition must now request the registration from the Minister who will initiate the request to the parliament. After the two-thirds vote by parliament, the religious organization is added to the list of recognized religions and an order is sent to the Court to register the organization within 30 days.

In January 2011, twenty-four members of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States (Monitoring Committee) signed a Motion for a Resolution entitled “Serious Setbacks in the Fields of the Rule of Law and Human Rights in Hungary.” The Resolution expressed the Parliamentary Assembly members “serious concern with respect to recent developments related to the rule of law, human rights and the functioning of democratic institutions in Hungary.” Last week, two Co-Rapporteurs from the Council of Europe traveled to Hungary to investigate these serious setbacks in human rights in Hungary and to report to the Monitoring Committee as to whether a formal human rights monitoring procedure should be initiated.

The passage of this draconian Religion Law is the latest and most disturbing example of this serious setback of human rights and the rule of law in Hungary. The legislation contravenes OSCE, European Union, Council of Europe, European Court of Human Rights and United Nations standards because it clearly discriminates against minority religious groups.

Today, THE INSTITUTE once again urges the Monitoring Committee to take action to initiate a human rights monitoring procedure to ensure compliance by Hungary with the Human Rights Convention and other Council international instruments that it has signed and ratified.

“In the midst of celebrating the break from its Soviet past by crafting a new constitution, erecting a statute of Ronald Reagan, and opening the Tom Lantos Human Rights Institute, the Government of Hungary has thrust the nation back into a system of repressive and restrictive legislation with this new law,” Mr. Grieboski commented. “My only hope is that similar to the case of the media law in January, the Government will realize the terrible mistake it has made and return the law to Parliament for revision, and ideally put it in line with international and European human rights standards.”

source: THE INSTITUTE on Religion and Public Policy








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